When you think of Paul Gauguin you're liable to envision the native women in French Polynesia that he so often pictured. Whatever image you associate him with, it's a good bet it won't be with movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Yet, that's what came to noted art critic Michael Glover's mind when he reviewed the current show of Gauguin's self-portraits at London's National Gallery. According to Hyperallergic, he saw a "predatory gaze" in the painter, known for exploiting women, in and throughout Weinstein's exploits, noted the Associated Press last week.

A question for the ages

But instead of exploring the correlation, Glover posed a question: "Is it fair to use contemporary standards to judge a man who died 116 years ago?" Which left me wondering how he could ask that unless he gives a pass to rapists if their assaults occurred before the #MeToo movement. Was it really OK to assault women back in the day because they didn't march in the street? You have only to reflect on 17th-century painter Arrtfmesia Gentileschi's rape charge against her art teacher to know the answer.

Giving voice to the voiceless

Clearly, the female natives of Tahiti didn't have a voice when Gauguin abused them. And actress Rose McGowan, who is suing Weinstein for "decades of violence and control over women," can speak for them. The Associated Press quoted her saying, “Harvey Weinstein was able to perpetuate and cover up decades of violence and control over women because he had a sophisticated team working on his behalf to systematically silence and discredit his victims.”

Reserving judgment

Talk about a sophisticated discrediting of rape victims, consider this: Even though Glover saw in exhibit examples that Gauguin was "a monstrous sexual predator," he contends that he shouldn't be judged by his "transgressions" because they have nothing to do with how we value him as a painter.

According to Glover, if we choose to take note of Gauguin's "transgressions," we are being "tediously and modishly moralistic."

Looking the other way

Is he right? Should we turn a blind eye to Gauguin's abuse of the Tahitian women simply because that was then and this is now when, as Glover put it, we are "acutely sensitive to the sexual exploitation of women as never before"​? If he's right, paintings of cruelty like Cezanne's "The Abduction" can only be assessed in terms of its style and to hell with the subject.

Art for art's sake

Glover isn't the only art critic to say that painting must be seen in the proper context - in terms of their aesthetic and never mind the stories they tell. I'm thinking of Kerry Downs, a Peter Paul Rubens scholar who has described the artist's Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, a depiction of frightened women struggling against their oppressors, as a "romance."

Violence against man or woman is never a time-sensitive issue.

It's been wrong since Cain slew Abel.

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